If I had to describe my time as an intern at Iskashitaa Refugee Network in one word, it would be rewarding. My mission: immerse myself in the organization, compile cooking recipes as well as photos of those recipes, and design a cookbook with what I have gathered that properly reflects Iskashitaa's involvement in the local food community.
Immersing myself in the organization couldn't have been easier. Not only are the staff members, volunteers and other interns some of the nicest people I've ever met, but I can also tell they do what they do because they truly want to, not just because they're paid to or are trying to get some community service hours under their belt. Because of this self-driven mentality, Iskashitaa's network is simply remarkable. It is this sort of nurturing environment that keeps this grassroots organization running strong.
When it comes to the cookbook, some of the recipes I recorded myself by going to refugee's homes. As they cooked dishes from their homelands that were clearly close to their hearts, I meticulously documented every move they made down to the last teaspoon. This above all was the highlight of my experience, for it permitted me to closely observe the intimate relationship between refugees and their native food - not to mention I got to eat a lot of really good food too. My only regret was that I didn't go to more homes. For the remaining recipes in the book, all it took was diligent research.
Finally, it was time to design the cookbook. Designing the cookbook had its own challenges especially formatting and graphic design. This is where I must sincerely thank Lizbeth Gonzalez, Iskashitaa's Programs Manager. She is an amazing woman with a tremendous work ethic. Thanks again Lizbeth for lending me a hand when I needed it most.
Coming into Iskashitaa, I brought with me enthusiasm, a positive mindset, and an unrivaled love for food, and came out the other end with such intense feelings that I must tackle each one individually. First of all, I have an entirely new respect for the amount of work that it takes to run a non-profit. The staff members at Iskashitaa are some of the hardest workers I know. Secondly, I realize how much I love working with people who care about what they do. Such work environments are breeding grounds for inspiration and personally make me want to work harder so as not to be a drag on the team. Thirdly, it feels great to work for a cause that you know for a fact is helping good people live better lives. Lastly, all of the refugees I personally worked with were unbelievable people, who, despite the horrible hardships they have been subjected to in their lives, maintain positive outlooks concerning their futures and always bring a smile to my face whenever I see them.
All of this has inspired me to not only continue working with Iskashitaa, but to expand my volunteer work to other regions of the world. This coming spring break, I will be travelling with a number of other U of A students to Ghana where I will have the opportunity to personally work with under-resourced communities to increase their access to safe drinking and cooking water. I ask for your help to fund my service with Global Water Brigades, to make a donation please click here.
Once I return from the trip, I will make sure to post pictures of my experience on Iskashitaa's Facebook page!
By: Max Efrein, Cookbook Intern